Hillsboro Will Stay The Course 2nd Semester

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Second semester instruction will look much like first semester in the Hillsboro School District, the school board agreed during their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at the unit office.

Due to the pandemic, the board met at the unit office with only ten people in the room: board members, the superintendent, media, and a consultant from Hurst-Rosche.  Administrators, other district staff, and the public were able to participate in the meeting on Zoom.

"We're tweaking a few things for second semester, but nothing will fundamentally change," Superintendent David Powell said of the district's "stay open" plan and the plan for remote learners.

High school Principal Patti Heyen said that staff at her school had asked to consider making Wednesday no-school day so teachers could concentrate the full day on remote lessen plans.  Board members thought that suggestion was for the upcoming semester, but learned after the meeting that it was not.

"I certainly understand the plight of the teachers, but I don't see how a four-day schedule is workable," Board President Barbara Adams said during the meeting. The superintendent, too, said he was not ready to recommend that change.

"There are a lot of things that would have to be worked through to make that work," Powell said.

After the meeting the superintendent learned that the high school principal, participating in the meeting remotely, was making the four-day-a-week suggestion as part of her school’s plan should the district have to go all-remote; the idea was not a suggestion for changing the “stay open” plan for next semester.

During the discussion, though, Heyen pointed out that 30-some of the current 70-some remote learners are failing.  There are just over 400 students enrolled at the high school.  

"I think we should attack it from a different point," board member Bryce Rupert said.  "What can we do to get kids who are failing back in school?"

Administrators shared that, by and large, many of the students who are failing as remote learners are the same students who were not succeeding in previous years when they were in school.

"Some of the kids who have chosen remote learning have done so to get away from us," the superintendent said frankly.

However, Beckemeyer Principal Zach Frailey pointed out that in a typical year, one or two students in the school are retained at the end of the school year.

"This year, it's going to be ten or 12," Frailey said.

Because substitute teachers are scarce–especially this year–the school board increased pay for that difficult job to $125 a day, to be reexamined at the July board meeting. Substitute teachers made $80 a day from 2001-16 and $90 since then.

The board awarded a $130,800 bid for restoring the high school cafeteria roof to Jim Taylor Roofing of Belleville, the lowest of four bids.

"It's a very good price, and it's a very good contractor," Tim Downen of Hurst-Rosche said.

The project will be paid using a $50,000 grant from the Illinois State Board of Education; the rest could either be paid from the school facilities sales tax or health/life safety funds.

The board adopted an $8.8 million tax levy for 2020, payable in 2021, a 1.34 percent increase from last year, but one that would drop the tax rate from 5.6039 last year to 4.9164 this year.

Superintendent David Powell presented the board with three potential levies; the only variable in each is the amount of the Coffeen Power Station assessed value–from $10 million to $30 million.

"We don't know yet what the assessed valuation of the power plant will be," the superintendent said.  "We do have a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec. 16)."

The levy calls for an expected increase of $200,000 in the education fund, but a decrease of $175,000 for bond and interest.  The latter comes from a debt restructuring to lessen the impact of the power plant closure on remaining taxpayers.

Near the beginning of the meeting, pre-K director Marci Gutierrez said the program was recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education for inclusion, and that the Christmas clothing drive supplied apparel for nearly 150 children in the district.

Beckemeyer Principal Frailey praised substitute teachers and aides as the "unsung heroes" of keeping school in session during the pandemic.

"We have a generous and caring faculty, and an excellent support team," high school Principal Heyen said of staff members who have expanded their job descriptions during the pandemic.

Junior high Principal Don VanGiesen said instead of a canned food drive for the Hillsboro Fire Department Christmas Basket program, his school collected over $350 in monetary donations.

After a closed session, the board hired Kristin Gregory as food service director and Kelby McCoy as teachers’ aide at Beckemeyer, and accepted resignations from high school teacher Bob Allen and Beckemeyer aides Tabatha Hamilton and Leanne Tumpach.

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